I got the call on Friday from my sister. My mom's house in Gasquet, California, went up in flames at 3 am on Thrusday, burning 1/2 the house. My mom and her boyfriend made it out okay but lost several pets - 7 cats, 2 dogs. Mom also spent three days in the hospital from smoke inhalation + possibly a minor heart attack. This is the latest in a long line of home-related dramas that my mom has been going through - too many and too personal to list here. I'm just glad she made it out alive. At least the place was insured, so she can rebuild, but in the meantime I think she and Ron are living in a motel with their remaining dogs. I plan to go down next weekend and see what help I can offer.
The house I grew up in. the "Gasquet House" as we call it in my family, was a unique place. Built sometime in the early 1900's, it was originally the schoolhouse in Gasquet until the 1960's, when Mountain School was built. (Gasquet, btw, is a tiny town in the redwoods of very-northern California, population 400 or so, and Mountain School is the school I attended sporadically from K-8th grades). Our house was huge, one of the biggest in town. The Cole family moved into the old schoolhouse in late 1975, shortly after my dad died, and I have many fond memories of the years that my family lived there - my older brothers fighting and knocking holes in each other's doors; brother Monty banging out Scott Joplin songs on the piano in his room; a dixieland jazz band performing in our living room in 1976; sister Neva and I almost burning the house down with an oil lamp when she was 10 and I was 5; and of course, many, many parties hosted by brother Mike and his derelict high school buddies. One of the coolest features of the Gasquet House was a recreation room built around a huge fir tree - I don't know how tall, but probably 6 feet in diameter. Apparently, the tree held up this back room during the fire, while the other back rooms were gutted and nearly collapsed.
I wish I had some digitized pictures of the old house to post, but I don't.
Alas, all things must pass.